Let’s face it, professionals generally don’t like being told what to do. Unless they have personally thought up an idea for change, they can be very resistant to the idea of ‘change’. It’s interesting that when professionals freely choose the change – e.g. they think of it in the first place, they are not resistant to the change at all. Many a firm has instigated a new strategy and spent considerable time and money to mobilise the weight of the firm behind it, only for the new strategy to fail – as many parts of the firm decided they would continue to behave as they always did.
Unfortunately, many firm’s standard mechanism for change is to hold a big group meeting to announce the change, and what’s going to happen. They then wonder why people are resisting the change… Often what happens in the meetings in the inevitable question and answer session, is that you get drawn into long and complicated debates on the rights or wrongs of following this course of action.
To initiate sustainable change in a professional practice, you need to change the conversations that people are having. So, what are the steps you need to go through to successfully initiate change within a professional services firm?
Any process starts with a ‘call to action’, as defined by John Kotter, in his excellent book, ‘Leading Change’. This is where you identify the pain and future problems your firm, team or group is going through if you maintain the status quo.
Then you need to start up your own ‘viral marketing campaign’ through the firm. This is where the formal and informal influencers have a conversation instigated by you, where you share the ‘call to action’ with them, in a way where they can see specifically how it affects them and their group. This conversation is ideally on a private one-on-one basis.
Professionals are generally highly intelligent people, who like to be part of the problem solving and decision making part of any proposed change. Therefore, the next stage of the process is to engage them in the solution. This only happens by soliciting and asking their opinion of what should happen next. Only after genuinely asking for other’s counsel, can you safely offer your suggestions of a way forward.
The next step is key to gaining true to commitment for the change you are proposing – ask the person to help you in some small way, to move the change forward. It may be as simple as them asking a question in the next partner’s meeting – but this small action will create another champion or advocate for your cause.
And then finally, you need to be specific about the role you want this person to play in your ‘viral marketing campaign’ – and share your role in the campaign. Then it is time to express your true appreciation.
Only when your conversations with the formal and informal influencers have happened, can you consider moving to a group meeting to share your plans for change?